Jan. 4, 2012
Twenty-two Boston College student-athletes will travel to New Orleans for one week over the semester break to help rebuild the homes of Hurricane Katrina victims through the St. Bernard Project.
“Without hope, some of these families are lost and even six years after the fact you can see that,” said Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) president Kyle McCartan. “It’s nice to go down there and work towards a common goal to give them hope and rejuvenate their spirits.”
One of biggest and most competitive student-athlete service opportunities of the year, the participants, representing 10 different sports, will do more than just work to help rebuild houses for the victims of this disaster. This trip also gives them the chance to participate in a formative activity they normally wouldn’t be able to because of their commitment to athletics.
“We go down there to build a house and make a difference in someone’s life, but in doing that, we ultimately receive much more than we could ever give them,” said Kevin Melnick, a golfer who led the trip last year. “We go down there to bring hope, but they’re the ones that have the hope and they teach us a lot about ourselves.”
Mollie Kolosky, a senior on the volleyball team, and Jack Linehan, a junior on the cross country and track and field teams, are leading the trip, which is organized by the the Devlin S-AFE Program. They’re both excited for the 15 athletes who will be making the trip for the first time.
"We want to make sure that everybody gets to come on the trip because it’s a very special thing to be able to participate in,” added Linehan, who has been going on the trip since its inception three years ago.
Described by Linehan as a “cultural trip,” the student-athletes work on tasks, such as putting up drywall or laying tiles, in the house they are assigned to during the day and then take part in different activities at night so that they can see other aspects of New Orleans.
“It’s got a soft spot in my heart,” Kolosky noted. “I love New Orleans.”
In past years, they have gone to a Boys and Girls Club to spend time with kids and help them with their homework. They also have gone to see a bayou to understand how the hurricane affected the area’s unique wildlife.
They have been able to witness some touching and life-changing moments that put all the work they had done on the trip into perspective.
Last year, the group went to a house unveiling through the St. Bernard Project. Watching the owner, who hadn’t been in the house for five years, cut the ribbon while surrounded with many people who worked on her house was memorable for all parties involved.
“It was such a moving moment,” said Linehan. “I’ll never forget she got up there at the microphone and said that we’re her angels. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.”
“We were in the middle of putting up drywall in some house and we had never met the family, but seeing that made us fully understand and grasp the amount of help that we’re doing for these people,” added Kolosky.
Working with Liz McCartney, a BC graduate and co-founder of the St. Bernard Project, is a special opportunity for the student-athletes who make the trip. It’s also a great way to meet people they normally wouldn’t and get to know them on a deeper level.
Kolosky and Linehan met through this program and have become close friends. They also had the chance to get to know junior football player Bryan Murray on the trip, and the time they spent with him was one of the many highlights of their stay in New Orleans.
“I’m this track runner, and he’s this big old football player and you wouldn’t think we’d be good friends but we are,” Linehan said with a laugh. “He’s just got the biggest heart, full of life, just a really funny guy. We ended up getting pretty close on that trip.”
This year’s trip leaders have many goals for this trip. They’re excited to meet new people, learn things about themselves and even see the aftermath of the BCS National Championship game between LSU and Alabama, which will take place while they are there.
Most of all, they want to help people who were affected by the tragedy as much as they can and raise awareness for the St. Bernard Project and their service trip, which is set for the next 10 years.
“People think [Katrina is] all over and people aren’t suffering anymore, and this just shows how big of a disaster it was,” said Linehan. “There’s still so much to do down there. Hopefully we can instill a passion for community service and for helping others.”
Written by Jen Dobias